VILNIUS - The Lithuanian national men's basketball team suffered an 89:67 defeat by Spain in the FIBA World Championship quarterfinals on Aug. 29. The loss means the national team will not move on in the tournament, which is being held in Japan. "It is a very special game for me because one of our goals was to get to the semi-finals," Spain coach Pepu Hernandez told reporters.
Spain will move on to play in the championship's semi-finals next week. "It will be difficult for anyone to beat us," Hernandez said.
Spain dominated the game from the first quarter, with a theatrical dunk by Rudy Fernandez off a pass from Sergio Rodriguez. The team went on to play well under the leadership of Pau Gasol, who scored a stunning 25 points. The victory marks a 16 game winning streak for Spain.
Although they're out of the semi-finals, Lithuania will play Turkey to decide fifth-eighth place on Aug. 31.
Hopes were high at the start of the match against Spain, as Lithuania had defeated Italy two days prior.
The Baltic state's 71-68 win over Italy on Aug. 26 assured the team a place in the quarter-finals and raised a glimmer of hope for a place in the top three.
Luck was on the side of Lithuania, as Italy missed six free throws in the final eight seconds of the game.
At one point, the Baltic team seemed desperate, struggling to keep out the equalizing three-pointer. Although Lithuania conceded back-to-back penalties, Italy failed to convert the opportunity, which spurred the Baltic state toward victory.
Italian coach Carlo Recalcati expressed disappointment over his team's loss.
"We've got ourselves to blame," he told the media. "We have thrown away so much. We have given away our crucial rebounds to our rivals."
Italy was ahead during the first half, but then Lithuania edged ahead during the second. An equal third quarter kept tensions high, until Italy let its guard down in the final 12 minutes.
Unfortunately, Lithuania couldn't maintain this winning mentality when up against Spain, clearly the stronger of the two. The Baltic team's best chance is a fifth place finish.